Prospects to watch in the 2019 National Championship Game


Alabama and Clemson. Again.

Since college football moved to a playoff format in 2014, the Crimson Tide have been included every year, winning two championship games. The Tigers have been included each of the past four years, winning the championship game over Bama in 2017.

These programs have dominated due to their wealth of talent, and the 2019 NFL Draft will again feature plenty of coveted prospects from both schools.

Perhaps this is the year the Panthers, who hold the No. 16 overall pick, draft someone from Clemson or Alabama?

Surprisingly enough, Carolina has never drafted anyone out of Clemson. Alum Brenston Buckner was a free agent addition at defensive tackle that contributed to a dominant front four in the early 2000s, but that's about it. The Panthers have drafted two Alabama players: guard Evan Mathis in 2005 (later a Pro Bowler with the Eagles) and defensive end Kindal Moorehead in 2003, who will be on the sideline Monday as an assistant strength coach for the Crimson Tide.

We know this: These powerhouse programs have a lot to offer.

So with draft season gearing up, Max Henson and Bryan Strickland are here to provide a look at the players to keep an eye on tonight during college football's grand finale.



OT Jonah Williams (jersey No. 73)

The junior is considered the top offensive tackle in the class, and he's one of those prospects that checks all the boxes. He's been rock-solid for the Crimson Tide, excelling as both a pass protector and run blocker. He's expected to declare for the draft as one of the top players available.

DT Quinnen Williams (jersey No. 92)

Williams is only a redshirt sophomore, but he looks and plays like a pro with an elite combination of size and athleticism. The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder has had a breakthrough year, posting eight sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He might even come off the board earlier than Alabama's other Williams, should he in fact declare.

S Deionte Thompson (jersey No. 14)

The redshirt junior is another breakthrough star for the Tide in 2018. He finally worked his way into the starting lineup and has taken charge of the secondary. Assuming he decides to go pro, Thompson is someone to keep an eye through the pre-draft process.

C Ross Pierschbacher (jersey No. 71)

The four-year starter transitioned from guard to center for his final season. That position flexibility is always an added bonus come draft time, but most expect Pierschbacher to find a home at guard in the NFL. At 6-foot-4, 301 pounds with so much games under his belt, he should be able to step in and contribute early.

DL Raekwon Davis (jersey No. 99)

Davis is a 6-foot-7, 306-pound force. His junior year hasn't been as productive as his sophomore campaign, but his NFL traits are obvious. He plays defensive end for the Tide but projects as an interior lineman at the pro level.

RB Damien Harris (jersey No. 34)

Harris returned for his senior season and has made it count. He's making a case to be the top running back off the board in a year where there aren't many backs in the first-round conversation.

RB Josh Jacobs (jersey No. 8)

The junior has created some buzz and will have a decision to make at the end of the season. He's never been the feature back for Alabama, but he's a versatile playmaker. Jacobs could be an intriguing prospect in the middle rounds.

TE Irv Smith, Jr. (jersey No. 82)

With 667 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, the junior tight end has become one of the top prospects at his position. He too will have a decision to make after tonight's game.

Ferrell and Wilkins celebrate against Notre Dame


DE Clelin Ferrell (jersey No. 99)

This game is loaded with front-four prospects on both sides of the ball, and Ferrell's battle against Alabama's stud left tackle Jonah Williams is a marquee matchup. The 6-foot-4, 265-pounder, who enters the title game with 11.5 sacks, is a dynamic rusher off the edge.

DT Christian Wilkins (jersey No. 42)

The 315-pounder can get to the quarterback and stuff the run. He's been a steady producer for Clemson's disruptive defense. The senior even added a couple of rushing touchdowns this season to boot.

DE Austin Bryant (jersey No. 7)

Could Clemson have four defensive linemen drafted in the first round? It is possible. Bryant is the least talked about player in the group but has been a solid, sometimes spectacular factor for four years running. At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, he's got a powerful build to set the edge.

CB Trayvon Mullen (jersey No. 1)

Mullen hasn't put up big numbers on the outside, but his big frame (6-1, 195) could make him a Day Two draft target for teams – if he enters the draft class. Mullen has a year of eligibility remaining but is widely regarded as someone who could declare.

WR Hunter Renfrow (jersey No. 13)

Best known as the receiver whose last-second catch gave Clemson its title at the end of the 2017 season, Renfrow has been as consistent as they come over the last four seasons. He knows how to get open in the slot and could help someone in the middle rounds.

OT Mitch Hyatt (jersey No. 75)

All the 6-5, 310-pounder has done is start at left tackle each of the last four seasons for one of the nation's elite offenses. He recently became the first Clemson player ever named the ACC's best offensive lineman in consecutive seasons. We'll see how he holds up against this ruthless Alabama D-line.

LB Tre Lamar (jersey No. 57)

Lamar could come back for his senior season, but the 6-4, 255-pounder recently said he was pleased with draft feedback he had received. The Butkus Award finalist had plenty of chances to make plays in support of the front four the last three years, and he delivered.

*Opinions shared in this story are from writers Max Henson and Bryan Strickland, not the Carolina Panthers.